Watchmen S1E2: Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship
Loss comes with a responsibility – and a legacy.
Watchmen had a lot to follow with an excellent table-setting episode last week, and, after an outing focused on the world at large, it makes sense that they would spiral in and focus on the smaller, central story of Angela Abar (Regina King) in this week’s episode, Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship.
The episode is really wrapped around Angela’s attempts to grieve Judd (Don Johnson) after his murder in the previous episode, but it’s more broadly a look at the immense amount of grief that Angela has been left to cope with over the course of her life. The most obvious way this manifests is via a flashback to the period after the police force, which she was then explicitly a part of, was victim to a vigilante attack that left many of Angela’s co-workers (including her partner) dead, and Angela herself violently attacked. Judd, breaking the news to her, offers her the chance to cry, but she tells him there will be time for it later. If there’s anything that sums up the theme of Comanche Horsemanship, it’s this.
Loss never comes easy – it’s not just the emotion of losing someone you love, or even someone you like, but filling the gaps of the hole that they left behind. For Angela, this includes, practically, taking in the children of her murdered partner and raising them with her husband; when she informs her adopted son of the death of Judd, she sees a reflection of herself in him, as he begins at once to work out how to break the news to his sisters instead of dealing with his own emotion over the matter. But, in the face of losing her pseudo-father-figure, she’s left with no children to care for, nothing as practical to handle, and instead turns to trying to place responsibility for his death; between scrubbing out the remnants of a white supremacist camping ground and delving into his past and their previous relationship, she searches for something tangible to fill the hole that his loss has left. And, of course, this being TV, digs up some pretty brutal memorabilia in the process.
The legacy that Judd’s passing has left, it seems, is one of white supremacy, and he’s not the only one trying (vaguely) to put right a racist history. Angela visits a museum dedicated to the preservation of the black community that was decimated by the Tulsa race massacre, a loss and a grief that hangs heavy over the show at large: the responsibility of that massacre still hotly protested, as people protest outside the museum about the reparations policy in place for families and victims of the massacre, but the legacy of it ever-present. When Angela is revealed to be the granddaughter of one of those victims, it makes perfect sense in the context of what we know about the character so far- she is heaped with the weight of the legacy of losses outside of her control, but her fierce determination to take and find responsibility for them and in them is what has already made her such an outstanding lead. There will be time to cry later – for now, she has shit to take care of.
This is, in a lot of ways, an intrinsically vital episode for this show going forward. When it comes to setting up alt-universe fantasy or sci-fi, it’s tempting to spend a lot of time building the world without as much time spent building on the characters who fill it out. But Angela, thanks in no small part to the performance of King, is already a rich, layered, and utterly fascinating lead. We have our setting, we have our leading woman, and now I’m ready to see where Watchmen takes us next.
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(header image via SlashFilm)